Friday, March 23, 2007

Arba Kosos

by Reb Jay

In Shemos ch.6 v.6-7 it states “Therefore say to the children of Israel, “I am Hashem and I will take you out from under the toils of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their labors, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements. And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be to you Hashem.”

The Yerushalmi in Pesachim states we drink the four cups to commemorate the four expressions of redemption. I will take you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, and I will take you to Me.

The Jews in Egypt were tortured and enslaved, and were strangers in a strange land. These three levels correspond with the first three expressions of redemption. Being tortured corresponds to “I will take you out from under their toils.” This refers to the period of time after the first plague, when the Egyptians stopped torturing the Jews. “ I will deliver you from their labors” refers to the time period after the first couple of plagues, when the Egyptians stopped enslaving them. “I will redeem you” refers to the point in time after the ten plagues, when the Egyptians let us go.

What does the fourth expression, “I will take you to Me”, refer to? In this expression of redemption lies the crux of our redemption from Egypt.

If one were to say our celebration of Pesach is simply to commemorate our leaving Egypt, then the whole Seder is a farce. What is there to celebrate? How many times have we been enslaved since then? We are obviously commemorating something much greater than simply leaving Egypt.

The Seder is a celebration of the very fact that we still exist. What would one say if right now a group of Assyrians demanded a state from the United Nations? Or Mesopotamians? Or Babylonians? Yet fifty something years ago that is exactly what happened. 2000 years after the Jews were exiled from Israel, we are still around (this is not said as a statement that is pro-zionistic, but merely to point the resiliency of Klal Yisroel).

How can this be explained? How can a people be separate from its land for 2000 years, yet still not only exist, but have an identity? Obviously, the secret of our survival is greater than any land, even Israel.

That secret is the last of the four expressions of redemption: “I will take you to Me as a people.” What does “take you to Me” mean? That Hashem will give us the Torah. Our having been taken out of Egypt was only a means to an end; that end is the purpose of our existence.
The word meitzar in Hebrew means constriction. Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for Egypt, means two constrictions. When Hashem redeemed us from Egypt, He released us from the constriction of being a physical slave, and He released us from the constriction of being spiritual slaves.

A mere seven weeks after we were taken out of Egypt, Hashem gave us the Torah, this being the reason He took us out of Egypt.

During the seder the first three cups of wine are drunk with thanks to Hashem for physically liberating us from Egypt and in thanks for all He has provided us with, both physically and materially since then. The fourth cup symbolizes our gratitude towards Hashem for having found us fit to receive the Torah, which gives our lives meaning and purpose. That is why even in the most horrible of conditions, in Western Europe during the crusades, in Spain during the Inquisition, and in the concentration camps, we gather on the anniversary of Hashem taking us out of Egypt, and we retell the story. And by virtue of our being here to observe the Seder, our relevance and our connection to Hashem and the Torah is proven.

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